The Best Free Games on Android22 Nov 2018 6
Some of the greatest games ever have been freeware. The openness of the Android system has led to many, many freeware games making it onto the Play store. In this article, we look at the cream of the crop, only a handful of which you can find for free on Apple devices. None of these games have ads or IAP beyond donations, nor are they demos. They are full, free and unlimited.
Are you an iOS user? Don't worry, we've got you covered as well!
These are games that have been created by beautiful, dedicated teams of people for the love of the craft. They are free, really free -- free as in America, not free as in beer. No ads. No gold, diamonds, coins, elixir, timers, or hats. They are what was once called "freeware", and we're here today to share some of them with you...
Seedship (Google Play)
The toughest choices are also some of the best choices, in terms of the rush you get when you gamble and it pays off. Seedship, a one man band project by John Ayliff, is full of tough decisions. You are an AI in control of a colony ship that's fled earth. You're carrying colonists in cryosleep, as well as all of the material, knowledge etc... you need to start a new world. But navigating interstellar space is dangerous, and the laws of decay are absolute - you must find a suitable world to set up shop before it's too late.
The best thing about Seedship is how it plays on your subjective opinion around the word 'suitable'. Every planet has a range of variables to consider, from the amount of water, to the quality of the atmosphere, to the availability of resources for expansion. You have a limited amount of surface probes with which to find this information out, although the longer your journey the easier it is find planet with a minimum standard in specific criteria. The problem is, with time comes danger - with each passing step, something will go wrong. You start off at peak condition (with all values at 100), as you travel you lose things. Knowledge, colonists, landing capabilities... your final score is a combination of what you had left to start the colony, plus the quality of the new world you chose to call home.
Pixel Dungeon (Google Play)
The easiest freeware game to recommend (of any kind) is the great Pixel Dungeon. This is a full-featured roguelike made to be controlled on mobile - in one handed portrait mode, no less! It's got classes, bottomless pits, status effects, secrets, randomly named potions that will set you on fire when you drink them, the whole kaboodle. The graphics are chunky pixels, but they are clear an communicative. The controls are simple, but the gameplay is anything but. You'll need to balance caution and daring to make it even a few floors in to this dungeon. The desktop version of this great game is paid, but the Android version is donation only!
Roguelike Honorable Mentions:
For a more mind-bending roguelike experience, try HyperRogue, which is set in non-Euclidean space on a hyperbolic plane. Among the granddaddies of roguelikes, only Nethack has a really good mobile implementation.
Battleheart (Google Play)
Android users are lucky enough to have the excellent tactical RPG Battleheart gone truly FTP. Battleheart was one of the earliest big hits on mobile, spawning a couple of likewise well-received sequels. It achieves this success by boiling down classic RPG gameplay into a system perfectly suited for mobile play. It's entirely battle-focused with very little story, but what battles they are. You'll lead a four-person team of varying classes, strengths and abilities against a wide variety of monsters with World of Warcraft-style tank-heal-damage strategy. It's like an MMORPG but instead of forty friends you just need four fingers. You can swap out different class types and experiment with sets of complimentary abilities. It all looks and controls beautifully, smoothly animated with simple line-drawing controls that were born for mobile.
Warfare Incorporated (Google Play)
If you have a craving for Starcraft or Command & Conquer, but no Tiberium in the bank, you are in luck. On Android, Warfare Incorporated has successfully brought classic RTS gameplay to tiny touch screens in the form of a game that goes back to PalmOS of 2003. In this game, you command the forces of a far-future megacorp in its efforts to strip-mine an alien planet (keep in mind, this was developed before we all learned the valuable lessons of James Cameron's Avatar).
War Inc. especially does a great job of adapting RTS commands to mobile controls. The interface gets out of your way, and simple intuitive taps order your troops around. Its graphics will either tap your nostalgia bone or make you scream at their messy pixels, but nonetheless do a good job communicating the state of the battlefield. There's a great and extremely well-balanced campaign mode plus hundreds of user-created missions. Multiplayer also works well.
Mindustry (Google Play)
Mindustry has an unusual spin on tower defense that makes it quite a bit more complicated than your typical time-waster. It will remind you immediately of Factorio, especially as your chains of production sprawl all over the map. It's played from a standard endless/survival formula that will drop you back at the beginning if you lose your base. To the basic TD formula, Mindustry adds conveyor belts that your towers need to keep running and supply chains that you need to keep building more towers. Running these systems efficiently is far more interesting and challenging than merely funneling creeps down corridors and wearing them away by attrition. The game includes a dozen maps and can be expanded with user-made downloads.
Mekorama (Google Play)
For puzzle fans, Mekorama [also on iOS] is a cute navigation puzzler in the vein of Monument Valley, but not quite so mind-twisting. You guide a cute robot around 3D mazes, dragging elements of the geography to make paths. There's no Escher-esque visual trickery, but that doesn't mean the puzzles aren't challenging! IAP are for donations only, and you can make and share your own levels through QR codes! The design is clean and the animation of the robot is utterly adorable. This is one of the very few freeware games available on iOS thanks to Apple's expensive developer hurdles, so be sure to give it a try and be doubly sure to drop a donation in the collection plate if you like it.
Open Panzer (Google Play)
Open Panzer [also on iOS] is an easy recommend for wargamers. This is a traditional hex-based historical strategy game that has you commanding World War II troops at the battalion level through mission-based scenarios. It builds on the venerable Panzer General II -- one of the most classic wargames ever -- and has great mobile controls. Just be sure to play the tutorial first. You'll be commanding and upgrading thousands of different units through three lengthy campaigns of 72 different "semi-accurate" scenarios. It's a hardcore game, but if you've been interested in dipping your toe into wargaming, you could do worse.
Freeciv (Google Play)
Yes, Civilization VI just came out on iOS Universal, but why play that mere demo when you could have an entire clone of the original classic for the price of exactly zero dollars? Freeciv is an open-source game originally on PC that is most similar to the classic Civilization II. If you've been living under a rock for thirty years, Civilization tasks you with guiding a civilization through six thousand years of gameplay, from the wheel to nuclear fission. Freeciv is well-implemented on Android, with new touch controls that are WYSIWYG but functional. The AI will provide a challenge, and there are tons of scenarios to undertake as well.
OpenTTD (Google Play)
This is a remake of Transport Tycoon, a business simulation game where you build transportation infrastructure. Okay, that sounds boring you think but then you've looked up and you've not just missed your bus stop, you're sitting in the bus mall and the driver is yelling at you to get the hell out. You'll make your fortune shipping products around the globe through a hundred years of gameplay, from steam engines to maglevs. The Android version is well-done, but doesn't provide a lot of guidance, so you may want to start on a desktop and them let your capitalist hunger take you to the mobile screen -- so long as it is one large enough for the tiny buttons and text.
The Battle for Wesnoth (Google Play)
This is an excellent 10-year-old turn-based strategy game in an elaborate fantasy world. It has always been developed as freeware and it has an unofficial Android version that is free. Unfortunately, not much has been done to adapt the game to mobile controls; it's essentially just the PC game pasted onto your tablet screen. You will have to deal with dragging a cursor around on the screen to select things, which is cumbersome but not impossible for a turn-based game. The gameplay, however, is worth it, with sixteen extensive campaigns and empires with vast differences in playstyles; Wesnoth is a world you can get lost in.
There are so many great open-source and freeware games around these days I must have missed some great ones, so let us all know in the comments what else is out there. Just remember the rules: no demos, no ads, and no in-app purchases except for donations!